Dwyane Wade shocked the NBA world late Wednesday when he announced he will leave the Miami Heat to sign with the Chicago Bulls. Wade will sign a two-year deal worth $47 million with the Bulls, according to the Associated Press.
Despite reports that Wade and the Heat were locked in a serious standoff over $10 million, and further reports that Wade was meeting with other teams, it was still stunning that Wade actually spurned the Heat after 13 years and three titles in Miami.
After news broke of Wade’s departure for Chicago, Pat Riley gave a seemingly heartfelt statement, texting Dan Le Batard that he was “SADDDDDDD!!!! SO saddddddd!” about Wade’s exit.
More curiously, he added:
“Move on with no blood or tears. Just thanks. I truly loved Dwyane, but families grow, change and get on with another life. He will always be a part of us. ALWAYS! And no more bruises and enough fighting.”
Riley may be legitimately disappointed to see a future Hall of Famer leave town, but the way he mentions families growing and changing seems to suggest he was prepared — if not hoping — for Wade’s departure.
A tweet from Heat beat writer Ethan Skolnick shows just how ugly things had become:
While you’re watching Kelly Ripa, one more nugget: Pat Riley never called Dwyane Wade during the entire process.
— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) July 7, 2016
As an organisation, the Heat boast their loyalty above all else. Riley, meanwhile, is a master negotiator always thinking several steps (and years) ahead. In a recent column on The Ringer, Bill Simmons shared an anecdote about how Riley once, in 2007, came sprinting out of his house in Malibu because Kevin Garnett (then a free agent) was walking by. The Heat weren’t even in the running for Garnett at that point.
So why wouldn’t Riley even — at the very least — pick up the phone to call Wade?
The only explanation is that he didn’t want Wade back.
Wade is 34, after all. Riley made him the team’s third priority during the off-season, behind Kevin Durant and Hassan Whiteside. He batted 50%, and still didn’t shell out the big contract Wade wanted. And why would he? Next year’s free agent class features Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Blake Griffin, Stephen Curry, Gordon Hayward, and more. If Riley gave Wade $50 million, he has less money to spend next year. So he didn’t call Wade during the negotiations.
Le Batard later said on ESPN Radio, “I feel like the Heat tried just hard enough to make it look like they were trying.”
Meanwhile, Wade was done being loyal. He’d taken several pay cuts in order for the Heat to contend. He felt (completely understandably) that he deserved a big pay-day. Riley wouldn’t even pick up the phone.
Sports are a business is arguably the most common cliche in all of sports. With Wade and Riley, at least, it’s true.
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